Your voice is the color of a robin’s breast,
And there’s a sweet sob in it like rain—still rain in the night.
Among the leaves of the trumpet-tree, close to his nest,
The pea-dove sings, and each note thrills me with strange delight
Like the words, wet with music, that well from your trembling throat.
I’m afraid of your eyes, they’re so bold,
Searching me through, reading my thoughts, shining like gold.
But sometimes they are gentle and soft like the dew on the lips of the eucharis
Before the sun comes warm with his lover’s kiss,
You are sea-foam, pure with the star’s loveliness,
Not mortal, a flower, a fairy, too fair for the beauty-shorn earth,
All wonderful things, all beautiful things, gave of their wealth to your birth:
O I love you so much, not recking of passion, that I feel it is wrong,
But men will love you, flower, fairy, non-mortal spirit burdened with flesh,
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 16, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
not understanding how we celebrate
Our bodies. Every day we separate.
— Marilyn Hacker
September, and the great stillness
of moonless night and cooling air, the city
in blue pockets in the hills, and just
under your hands, the current
of what’s forgotten. All week long, while
you were running, or reading, your forefinger
blurring the type, one season was slipping
into another, as lovers weave themselves
across a bed, odor of yeast
from the beer bread lifting through
the oven, the dog’s pad cracked, and in
class, you were watching one student
blink at another. There’s a time
to believe in love, you’d thought,
watching her rub her arm hair, and him
shift in his shirt, but then you believe all
things end, and you’d tried so carefully
to explain what Marilyn Hacker meant,
how we “wake to ourselves, exhausted,
in the late,” before you thought better
about it, staring down the rows, and cited
the fused limbs, and raised unlettered power
instead, the poem’s words comets’ tails
on blackboard. Now, you are finally leaving
campus, content this time your heart
has bettered the howl for sugar, your body
hot from the work of itself, when you push
through the glass door into fall—
and you remember a draft which was
just like this once, when, past
the dorm curfew, Tim was clutching
your elbows beside a lake, the air cricket
-thick, Cassiopeia encrusted in her collar.
There is no loneliness as knowing. Years
later, when you were drunk yet again,
at Le Lido, swimming the booth,
the waiter—cloudy in his captain’s suit—sat
with you. The gold-enameled dancer
was still mounting her white horse. He poured
the champagne. You sipped it softly.
Their muscles erupted into the shivering
other as they strutted circles against
the stage, animal and woman, and you were
grateful no one said a word. How
could you have named the chill
of her breasts, the terrible hot fur?
It was that gift of silence which happens
between strangers, out of country. Then
you’d walked home, tall cathedrals
bristling in the baubles of their unrung
bells. You’d turned your collar up
against the coming cold as you turn
up your jacket now, surprised
by the suddenness of the season
(or your own inattention to the small
shifts), your breath crystal in air—
and each stripe, marking separation
down the asphalt, is lamped
and glistening, eerie as snow, solstice
certain as the short drive ahead, to when
you must walk up to your dark, quiet
house, sink your key into the lock.
From For Want of Water (Beacon Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Sasha Pimentel. Used with the permission of the poet and Beacon Press.
His priestly gestures, consecrating the broken eggs,
hands moving over the stove, slabs of meat
skittering in grease, drop biscuits big as a cat’s
head, threaded with cheese.
Him, making the fountain, making lantana, acanthus,
making bloom and ripple, song, making the birds.
My husband, the blue room, the bright room, best china,
best silver lifted from a box in the closet,
its red beds of best silver, put back later for later.
My husband who is not my husband who is still mine.
See him, crying in the Dublin airport—
he doesn’t want you to see. Can you see
the eucomis, its waxy leaves, its stalk blossoming
in the hot sun, pushing up among the marigolds?
Scars from this or that on shin or back, wrist or hand,
the way the garden loves him, the bees.
Him among the lilies, his hands lilies, his mouth
a twist of quince, his scent.
My husband among the lilies.
My husband, sauntering down the aisles. Him, sauntering
down the aisles at the flea market, dust settling
on everything, his small flashlight, his blue eyes,
his sound of geese, a train. Look,
something glitters and is gone. My husband, the gold
in the trees, falling, and him, a coverlet of mulch
across the beds, or asleep, the heat of him,
the hot water bottle of him, the cat purring at our feet.
My husband who is not my husband who is still mine.
The blue walls say so, the orchid deciding to bloom again.
Copyright © 2014 by Ed Madden. Used with the permission of the poet.
You lay so still in the sunshine,
So still in that hot sweet hour—
That the timid things of the forest land
Came close; a butterfly lit on your hand,
Mistaking it for a flower.
You scarcely breathed in your slumber,
So dreamless it was, so deep—
While the warm air stirred in my veins like wine,
The air that had blown through a jasmine vine,
But you slept—and I let you sleep.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 25, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
We were all Jack Gilbert’s lovers, not in the world
but in the poems, in the world of the poems, dying
on the rocky broken spurs of hard islands in a blue
country across the sea, lovers carried in his arms
for decades sometimes, more, the wind a character
that refused to lift the center of the word pain, where
vowels fall into the letter n the way the summer,
wheat-blazed and feral, pours into the cold weeks
of November, winter in its bones to come. Jack
loved us, not as a god or a devil, however nuanced,
but as one who must attend to the difficult harvest
of a life, to the losses and the simple grain that we might,
if we listen beyond the howling in our own hearts, hear
him singing about as he carries us up the dead mountain.
Copyright © 2019 by Brian Turner. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 23, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Why I love thee?
Ask why the seawind wanders,
Why the shore is aflush with the tide,
Why the moon through heaven meanders;
Like seafaring ships that ride
On a sullen, motionless deep;
Why the seabirds are fluttering the strand
Where the waves sing themselves to sleep
And starshine lives in the curves of the sand!
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 20, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.